Wednesday, April 4, 2012

E is for Exposition: Handle with Care

 Oh . . . Exposition. It is a necessary evil when you're writing so that your reader will understand the background behind what is going on in your story, but if not handled with care it can take the reader right out of your story or just bore them to tears.

A few months ago an individual from my writers' group commented on a large chunk of exposition I put into a first draft. At first I believed that the information needed to be there so my reader would better understand the backstory of my villains, but when I read it back to myself the exposition seemed like one big chunk of writing that slowed the pace and distracted from my plot.

Has this ever happened to you?

So what do you do with Exposition? Cut it out (or at least, cut it down). Take out any information that is not absolutely essential to forwarding your plot. Try sprinkling it throughout your story instead of in one indigestible lump, or use dialogue to get the information across.

As James Scott Bell (bestselling author) says, "Act first, explain later." Readers are most interested in the action that unfolds in the book, and exposition that is handled with care will add meaning behind the action.


  1. I totally agree with the "Act first, explain later" theory. It's so easy to think that backstory MUST be right there at the start so everyone will understand, but the truth is, people usually just get it without it if you subtly weave it through the story.

  2. Difficult to master, but it's good advice.

    Stopping by for the A to Z challenge :)

    1. Hi there Stephsco. Thanks for popping by!

  3. Fun drinking game: drink every time you spot exposition in a movie or tv show.

  4. It's true. Info dumps push people out of a story even faster than horrible grammar and creative punctuation. :) Enjoyed the post. Happy A-to-Z-ing!